24 January 2022

Probing the polls: Living with Summernats and eucalypts in our streets

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Fallen eucalypt

Are eucalypts suitable for street planting? Photo: Jess Tankard.

Summernats is always divisive, but on the basis of our poll, it looks like more Canberrans are coming around to the annual festival of cars.

The event has undergone a noticeable change in direction under the management of Andy Lopez, focussing more strongly on creating a family-friendly event. Despite this, the 2022 event was marred, as it has been in previous years, by hoons doing illegal burnouts at several city locations and attacking police.

But Tim Gavel argued that Summernats has paid its dues and should be accepted for the value it brings to the community, whether you’re a motoring fan or not.

We asked Do you welcome Summernats every year? A total of 3,622 people responded.

Your choices were to vote No, it’s a nuisance for everyone else and I’m over it. This received 29 per cent of the total, or 1,041 votes. Alternatively, you could vote Yes, whether you like it or not, it’s part of Canberra. Live and let live. This received 71 per cent of the total, or 2,581 votes.

This week, we’re wondering about eucalypts in the suburbs. In recent weeks, there have been several huge storms, bringing intense winds and even hail.

READ ALSO Do eucalypts belong in the suburbs?

While Canberra’s inner suburbs are largely planted with exotic deciduous trees, many post-war developments have extensive eucalypts plantings and native trees make up around 60 per cent of Canberra’s suburban tree canopy.

Eucalypts have a propensity to drop large limbs or keel over completely, leading many to describe them as ‘widow makers’ and unsuitable for suburban planting and appear particularly vulnerable in extreme weather conditions.

However, arborist Steve Griffiths told Region Media the analysis was too simplistic. He says that failures in gum trees are often due to problems with the soil the trees are growing in rather than an inherent problem with the species.

“The main problem is a lack of drainage,” he explained. “It’s not that the trees are not suitable for the suburbs, but the soil is being compacted by the urban infrastructure.”

The more infrastructure there is, the harder it becomes for water to drain away. Periods of heavy rain exacerbate this and can lead to a rotting of the roots. In a big wind, a tree with rotted roots can simply fall over.

Alex Kay said: “A more accurate headline ought to be ‘should we put suburbs in gum tree territory?'”, while Michelle Jeffrey advised people to “stop parking under the trees to help the root system and prevent soil compaction. How poor Canberra would be without our eucalypts”.

But John Giacon noted: “Many Eucalypts are not suitable near houses. However, there are many different parts of suburbia. There could be many more eucalypts in, for instance, median strips and open areas away from houses. They would substantially cool the area, provide habitat and greatly reduce the need for mowing. We, and the planet, need more trees, but not where they are a danger.”

Our poll question this week is:

Are eucalypts suitable street trees?

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Also in cases of bushfires gum trees explode like bombs whereas many species of exotic deciduous trees are fire retardant-this is an important factor too -and I know it may be a matter of taste but i find suburbs lined with European-style trees much more classy and attractive!

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